japonisme: a private space disclosed

06 June 2008

a private space disclosed


He drew hundreds of women
in studies unfolding

like flowers from a fan.

Teahouse waitresses, actresses,
geishas, courtesans and maids.

They arranged themselves
before this quick, nimble man
whose invisible presence
one feels in these prints
is as delicate
as the skinlike paper
he used to transfer
and retain their fleeting loveliness.

Crouching like cats,
they purred amid the layers of kimono
swirling around them
as though they were bathing
in a mountain pool with irises
growing in the silken sunlit water.

Or poised like porcelain vases,
slender, erect and tall; their heavy
brocaded hair was piled high
with sandalwood combs and blossom sprigs
poking out like antennae.
They resembled beautiful iridescent insects,
creatures from a floating world.

Utamaro absorbed these women of Edo
in their moments of melancholy
as well as of beauty.

He captured the wisp of shadows,
the half- draped body
emerging from a bath; whatever
skin was exposed
was powdered white as snow.

A private space disclosed.
Portraying another girl
catching a glimpse of her own vulnerable
face in the mirror, he transposed
the trembling plum lips
like a drop of blood
soaking up the white expanse of paper.

At times, indifferent to his inconsolable
eye, the women drifted
through the soft gray feathered light,
maintaining stillness, the moments in between.

Like the dusty ash-winged moths
that cling to the screens in summer
and that the Japanese venerate
as ancestors reincarnated;
Utamaro graced these women with immortality
in the thousand sheaves of prints
fluttering into the reverent hands of keepers:
the dwarfed and bespectacled painter
holding up to a square of sunlight
what he had carried home beneath his coat
one afternoon in winter.

Cathy Song
from Picture Bride by Cathy Song.
Copyright © 1983 by Yale University Press

if you have ever wished to make a round-the-world tour in the pursuit of museum exhibitions about kimono, this is the summer of your dreams:

Ohio, Melbourne, Ontario, Philadelphia, Maine, Oregon, Tokyo, & Wisconsin! (okay, okay. i know some of them have just passed and some are in the fall but give me a break.)

and to respond to cathy song's poem, i too question who was happy, who was sad. as does this movie:

for the true tales of a wearer of kimono, see this blog.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest Lotusgreen,

As I was reading Cathy Song's beautiful depiction of Utamaro's portraits, i honestly thought that this was YOUR WRITING !! And i kept reading all these wonderful images and thinking, "Oh, Lotus should pull this one and this one and that one and write a poem ...."

Though in a way it is already poetic - a prose poem. Beautiful and informative at the same time.

It reminded me that I have a beautiful piece of embroidered silk kimono framed and hanging still in my home ..... it was purchased at an estate sale. I have no idea how old it is ..... i just loved the gentle colors: sage, ivory, gold ... and the swaying bamboo leaves.


06 June, 2008 23:07  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh it sounds lovely, lb.

now i must tell you that cathy song's piece is a poem. but i thank you! darn--i forgot to put in the credit line, so will remedy that now!

07 June, 2008 06:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest Lotus,

Of course!! I was up so late leaving comments, I realize that all around the blogosphere I seemed to be missing the 'point' somehow. Well, fatigue will do that to a person.

Yes, it is a poem ... though personally I would still classify it as a prose poem ... my opinion only.

and my dear: YOU'VE BEEN TAGGED.
it isn't quite so onerous a task. dearest jyotsana has been tagged for THE VERY FIRST TIME. So I am asking my dear blogging friends to stop by the blue bicycle and play the game of tag with us. I hope to see you soon!


07 June, 2008 11:38  
Blogger おにぎりまん said...

You have some very interesting photos here. Very cool.

09 June, 2008 08:15  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

ようこそ & ありがとうございました!

09 June, 2008 08:37  
Blogger Roxana said...

and now I have lost all my words again!!! yes yes you can smile all that you want, roxy is in awe :-) the pictures themselves, but then the poem! the poem!!!

09 June, 2008 15:31  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i love the image of toulouse-lautrec at the end.

though i must say, nobody is still powdered as they step out of the bath! ;^)

09 June, 2008 15:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like the photos as part of the dramatization of the poem. It was really nice and I enjoy it a lot.


27 April, 2010 11:10  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you very much!

27 April, 2010 11:48  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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